Theological Resource Base – Jewish Inspirations

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The Season of Creation coincides with the High Holy days of the Jewish faith. This time of deep reflection, celebration and renewed purpose for the Jewish community includes Rosh Hashana (New Year) on 6-8 Sept 2021, and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) 15–16 Sept this year. Judaism follows a solar-lunar calendar, so the dates differ slightly every year.

The Hebrew connection to Nature is manifest in much of their history including the stories of the nation’s escape from Egypt under the leadership of Moses, their long wondering in the desert and their eventual emergence, which will be celebrated next week with their joyful Sukkot festival when open structures will be constructed and used for family meals and even for sleeping in.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the festival of Sukkot comes at the time of harvest, and the Jewish community turns their attention to gratitude for God’s continued support of humanity through the abundant gifts of the land.

We read in Leviticus 23: 22 -  “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to it’s very border, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.”

Jewish teaching considers this as a clear instruction against exploitation of the land, and against greed and selfishness. God exhorts us to be compassionate towards those who have less, and considerate towards all of life.  These injunctions about working responsibly with the earth are scattered throughout Exodus and Leviticus. It is as if God used the time of wandering through the desert to teach people about how to live in and off the land, to trust His word and His guidance and to maintain right relationship with all of life.

The Hebrew word “pe’ah” refers to the practice of leaving the corners. It is the basis of teachings about charity, earthcare and right relationship with life.

Are ploughs more sacred than swords?

Isaiah 2:4 “They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

In his book, The World’s Religions, Huston Smith observes that “Jews are united more by what they do than by what they think”. What he means by this is that Judaism is concerned with ritual and practice, for example  - male circumcision and other ceremonies marking phases of life.

Life itself, and the way one lives life, is hallowed in the Laws presented in the first five books of the Torah. The Tree of Life is a powerful symbol in Judaism that holds layers of understanding and engagement with life – studying this symbol is part of the grappling and questioning process which is such a marked characteristic of Judaism.

Judaism is also all about cause and effect. When wrong is done, vengeance is exacted. Judaism grapples deeply with God and is not afraid to do so, but also knows that an offended God is an angry God, and a way must then be found back to God’s mercy. The human role in climate change and the clarion call to redress the wrongs of the past cannot be held in isolation from this encompassing knowledge.

Jewish Poetry and Prayer

Psalm 114

1 When Israel came out of Egypt,     Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, 2 Judah became God’s sanctuary,     Israel his dominion.

3 The sea looked and fled,     the Jordan turned back; 4 the mountains leaped like rams,     the hills like lambs.

5 Why was it, sea, that you fled?     Why, Jordan, did you turn back? 6 Why, mountains, did you leap like rams,     you hills, like lambs?

7 Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord,     at the presence of the God of Jacob, 8 who turned the rock into a pool,     the hard rock into springs of water.

A Prayer for the Renewal of Creation by Rabbi Daniel S Nevins:

Master of the universe,

in whose hand is the breath of all life

and soul of every person,

grant us the gift of Shabbat,

a day of rest from all our labors.

With all of our senses

may we perceive the glory of Your works.

Fill us with Your goodness,

that we may attest to Your great deeds.

Strengthen us to become Your

faithful partners,

preserving the world

for the sake of future generations.

May it be Your will

Adonai our God and God of our ancestors,

to renew Your blessing for the world

in our day, as You have done from the beginning of time.